"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

Identifying system components for their sonic neutrality should logically proceed from the interpretation and analysis of their technical, objective performance. Deviations from a flat frequency response at any point along the signal chain from microphone to ear is likely to give an audible sonic personality to the system at your ear; this includes the significant contribution of the listening room itself. To accurately reproduce the recorded sound as Harbeth speakers are designed to do, you would be best advised to select system components (sources, electronics, cables and so on) that do not color the sound before it reaches the speakers.

For example, the design of and interaction between the hifi amplifier and its speaker load can and will alter the sound balance of what you hear. This may or may not be what you wish to achieve, but any deviation from a flat response is a step away from a truly neutral system. HUG has extensively discussed amplifiers and the methods for seeking the most objectively neutral among a plethora of product choices.

HUG specialises in making complex technical matters simple to understand, getting at the repeatable facts in a post-truth environment where objectivity is increasingly ridiculed. With our heritage of natural sound and pragmatic design, HUG is not the best place to discuss non-Harbeth audio components selected, knowingly or not, to introduce a significantly personalised system sound. For that you should do your own research and above all, make the effort to visit an Authorised Dealer and listen to your music at your loudness on your loudspeakers through the various offerings there. There is really no on-line substitute for time invested in a dealer's showroom because 'tuning' your system to taste is such a highly personal matter. Our overall objective here is to empower readers to make the factually best procurement decisions in the interests of lifelike music at home.

Please consider carefully how much you should rely upon and be influenced by the subjective opinions of strangers. Their hearing acuity and taste will be different to yours, as will be their motives and budget, their listening distance, loudness and room treatment, not necessarily leading to appropriate equipment selection and listening satisfaction for you. Always keep in mind that without basic test equipment, subjective opinions will reign unchallenged. With test equipment, universal facts and truths are exposed.

If some of the science behind faithfully reproducing the sound intended by the composer, score, conductor and musicians over Harbeth speakers is your thing, this forum has been helping with that since 2006. If you just want to share your opinions and photos with others then the unrelated Harbeth Speakers Facebook page may be for you. Either way, welcome to the world of Harbeth!"

Feb. 2018
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Who cares when it fails? A repeated caution in amplifier selection

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  • Who cares when it fails? A repeated caution in amplifier selection

    For as long as I can recall, I have been cautioning HUG readers to give proper attention to the matter of after-care. Consumer audio equipment is not built and tested to NASA cost-no-object life-and-death standards, and has the potential to fail just when you least expect it to. In my opinion, any claimed sonic superiority is of dubious real value if the equipment fails and leaves .... silence.

    I wish consumers factored into their purchase decision just who, where and at what competence and cost, will repair their equipment when it fails and how many years after production that could be expected. AN awareness of the reality of after-care should be given absolutely top priority, because the frustration of failure - and silence - is immense, as we are finding out.

    We suffered an equipment failure recently which may or may not have been our fault. The destruction of one channel of this fancy amplifier might have been due to an output short circuit, but whether or not, the amp should have had, at that price point, effective short circuit protection since shorting the output is to be expected in consumerland. So now, ten days on, we are still no nearer to find a solution as to who, in what country and at what price will nurse this unit back to life. Indeed, what has been exposed is that the unit is manufactured far from the designers HQ, and that there is, mischievously?, no declatarion of the origin marked on the unit. It certainly is not Europe. I thought that marking country of origin was a legal requirement. The relative remoteness of the manufacturing cannot help with the availability of spare parts.

    I repeat: DO NOT BUY FANCY AUDIO EQUIPMENT unless and until you have personally phoned the brand's local representative to validate that they do have a local service facility, the range or repairs that they are capable of doing, the availability of spare parts, the likely costs and about packing for transit. If the product is heavy, to ship inside the UK will cost tens of pounds: overseas, perhaps hundreds.

    Should you call Harbeth UK, we can give you all of that information immediately and with certaintly. As I assume QUAD can still do?
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  • #2
    I think there are two issues here. First, what is the chance of failure, and second, what if it fails?

    As for the chance of failure, all electronics have a known to the manufacturer failure rate in, say, the first few weeks. Testing products individually is expensive, so manufacturers have to find a tradeoff between failure rate, the cost of returns vs the cost of testing, and the cost of manufacturing to a higher standard. For mainstream manufacturers in the mass market this means that they have to accept a small failure rate, and address that with no questions asked return policies. Fortunately for them, they also have excellent engineering staff who know what they are doing, and they often also have their own manufacturing plants, even if in Asia, making for much easier quality control.

    High end manufacturers can opt to have a small in-house European/US manufacturing operation, but that will be expensive, so the temptation is to outsource manufacturing to a generic manucturing plant in a low wage country (which is what most boutique brands do). But that involves either strict external quality control, or quality risks.

    If and when a unit fails, a quick no questions asked return policy is the smartest way to address problems, and all the more so because many modern designs are so integrated that repairs are not easy or even economical. You may be able to replace a particular board, but that is about it. This is unlike earlier designs such as my Quad 606-2 that still consisted of many separate off the shelf components that could be replaced by any decent service engineer (I had all capacitors and resistors replaced some time ago for another two decades of enjoyment).

    So with many modern amplifiers the only realistic option will be to ditch them, at the manufacturer's expense when still under warranty, and at your own after that. That is a good argument for choosing an affordable model from a mainstream manufacturer.

    This reduces the chances of problems, gives more guarantee of a no questions asked response, and hurts less when you have to replace the unit at your own expense.

    I am quite convinced that my son's 2x250 watt Yamaha pro audio amplifier would have been an excellent choice. It is built like a tank, has elaborate protection circuitry, is made to be abused by roadies, and has an enviable reputation for just that. Replacing it would be 300 euro at current prices.


    • #3
      A few years ago I had a slight issue with a product from a UK pro DJ equipment company (made in China) I emailed them and was told there was an authorized service engineer in the area, amazingly just half hour from home in the US. Anyway the unit was looked at and the issue remedied.

      The main function of that industrial space was repair/warranty for PA equipment, several brands were being worked on, stacks of amps, bass bins, you name it, testing benches, boxes of spares etc in apparent chaos. However at the very least there they were, authorized repairers for several huge professional equipment makers. The exact type of equipment that most hifi hobbyists would scoff at.
      Getting to know my C7ES3


      • #4
        In all my years of connecting, swapping and playing about with numerous amplifiers, solid state and valve based, I can recall just two which failed either by short circuiting or running open circuit. One was fixed by the manufacturer without a quibble, the other manufacturer told me that as it was 2 years old, it was time to change anyway. Our engineer fixed that one.

        I have had products from two other companies which were extremely unreliable. With both companies, anything which moved - ie CD transports or controls, would fail and these companies wouldn't repair under warranty. I no longer stock their products and one of them has gone bust. Many companies are extremely difficult to work with and that is very often the case with the larger companies and distributors.

        As a retailer, I choose every product I sell on it's performance, value for money, reliability and most important, the ability and willingness of the company concerned to rectify problems without a quibble. Most of my brands are UK made and I have worked with them for decades. These companies would bend over backwards to make certain that any problems are resolved within 48 hours.


        • #5
          The thing about Quad is that they have performance standards and it costs a small sum to have the units serviced or fixed and you know it will come back measured as new. The only expensive thing I had fail was an 8-year old amplifier and the manufacturer fixed it for free, including shipping to Denmark. It is easy to find people to fix vintage kit. That said, Alan makes an excellent point.


          • #6
            I have to agree with Willem. It is surprising that Mr Shaw did not undertake due diligence on the manufacturer of his amplifier. Given his stated admiration for the service department of Quad, surely it would be prudent to use one of his 405s or a recent Quad amplifier which has current dumping, e.g. a 909 or Artera.

            A friend of mine recently purchased the new all-in-one Solus with cd transport and DAC. A recent Hifi News review measured its output at 85 watts into 8 ohms and 140 into 4 ohms. The reviews have been very positive. It could be an ideal show and demonstration partner - very portable and powerful.


            • #7
              I would endorse the use of the Quad Solus, all in one unit. I use it often for demos as it is so easy to take off the shelf, plug in and it performs well.


              • #8
                Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                I would endorse the use of the Quad Solus, all in one unit. I use it often for demos as it is so easy to take off the shelf, plug in and it performs well.
                In your professional opinion as a dealer in both brands, how does the Quad Solus compare to my Rega Brio and Apollo combo?

                I know that the Solus has the advantage of using the ESS Sabre DAC for connecting to streamers, BD players etc.